Galatasaray Lisesi, known in other languages by its French name Lycée de Galatasaray, was known in Turkish as the Galata Sarayý Enderun-u Hümayunu (Galata Palace Imperial School) and later the Galatasaray Mekteb-i Sultanisi (Galatasaray School of the Sultans). It is one of the most influential high schools of modern Turkey. Established in 1481, it is the oldest Turkish high school in Istanbul and the second-oldest Turkish educational institution in the city after Istanbul University which was established in 1453. Being an Anatolian High School, access to the school is open to students with a high Nationwide High School Entrance score. Galatasaray S.K., which would go on to win the UEFA Cup in football in the year 2000, was formed in this institution with initial players all being members of the school.
The name Galatasaray means Galata Palace, as the school is located near Galata, the medieval Genoese citadel at the north of the Golden Horn, also known as Pera (Peran en Sykais). Since the 19th century, the name "Pera" refers to the larger borough of Beyoðlu which includes the Galata district.
The history of Galatasaray Lisesi dates back to 1481. The high school started as Galata Sarayý Enderun-u Hümayunu (Galata Palace Imperial School) in its current location in Beyoðlu.
Bayezid II (1447–1512) founded the Galata Sarayý Enderun-u Hümayunu in 1481. Known as the "peaceful Sultan", he revived the city of Istanbul after the conquest of 1453. Bayezid II often roamed the city, disguised as an ordinary citizen. Legend has it that on one of these rambles, he found a wonderful garden near Galata filled with beautiful red and yellow roses. In this garden, he met Gül Baba (Father Rose). The Sultan asked the wise man about how to improve the Empire and the city as they filled with a range of immigrants, from Spanish Jews to Turks from the Karaman region. Gül Baba explained that he was happy with the city, his rose garden and the reign of the Sultan, but he would be much happier if there were a school which would educate all students from this diverse range of backgrounds, as this would train the wise men needed to serve such a large Empire. He told the Sultan he would be proud to serve as a teacher in this school in order to create a generation of valuable subjects to the Empire. Bayezid II took Gül Baba at his word and returned to the garden weeks later with the edict which established the Ottoman Imperial School, on the grounds next to the rose garden, with Gül Baba as its headmaster. Thus Gül Baba became the first headmaster of Galatasaray and administered the school for many years. He died during the Ottoman raid to Hungary and his tomb is located near Budapest.
When the Ottoman army went to war, dervishes and minstrels accompanied it to provide religious prayers and entertainment. Dervishes and minstrels also used to arm themselves and joined the fighting whenever necessary. Gül Baba was one of these dervishes. Janissaries were fond of the dervishes of the Bektashi order, since they regarded Hacý Bektaþ as their convent's chief.
German historian Theodor Menzel suggests that Gül Baba's name was a nickname, as "rose" was the sign of being a leader of the Bektashi lodge.
Interim period (1830–1868)
Galata Palace Imperial School remained open until the 1830s, when the movement of reform and reorganization abolished the Ottoman Empire's old establishment. Sultan Mahmud II (1808–1839) replaced the Imperial School with the Ottoman Medical School, staffed largely by French professors, and most courses were taught in the French language. The Medical School functioned at the Galata Palace buildings for some thirty years.
Modern period (1868–1923)
Sultan Abdülaziz (1861–1876) was the first Ottoman sultan to travel to Europe. Invited by Napoleon III, in June–July 1867 he attended the World Exhibition in Paris. He then visited Queen Victoria in London, Wilhelm I in Prussia and Franz Joseph I in Vienna. Sultan Abdülaziz was impressed by the French educational system during his visit, andon his return to Istanbul he announced the Edict of Public Education, which established a free compulsory education system for all children until they became twelve. In September 1868, influenced by the French Lycée model, a school was established under the name "Lycée Impérial Ottoman de Galata-Sérai" (in Turkish: Galatasaray Mekteb-i Sultanisi). French was the main language of instruction, and many teachers were European. The students included members of all religious and ethnic communities of the Ottoman Empire. Many students from this 55 year period became prominent statesmen, educators, bureaucrats and writers in Turkey and in other nation-states which were once a part of the Ottoman Empire. Some even served as the first statesmen in their newly established countries in Greece, Bulgaria and Serbia.
The influence of Galatasaray on modern Turkey has been enormous. As the need for administrators, diplomats, and other leaders with a modern education and capacity to handle Western administrative apparatus became more and more pressing, the graduates of Galatasaray filled these roles in the politics of the Ottoman Empire and, after it, of the Republic of Turkey.
Lycée de Galatasaray, with its contributions to the Westernization of the "East", came to be considered the "Window to the West".
Since this period, the district where this institution stands has been known as Galatasaray. In 1905, in one of Galatasaray's classrooms, the Galatasaray Soccer Club was founded.
From the establishment of the Republic of Turkey to the Integrated Education System (1923–1992)
With the abolition of the Ottoman Empire and the proclamation of the Republic of Turkey in 1923, the name of the school was changed to "Galatasaray Lisesi" (Lycée de Galatasaray).
Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey, visited Galatasaray 3 times: on December 2, 1930; January 28, 1932; and July 1, 1933.
Instruction was conducted in Turkish and French, and the school was composed of an Elementary School (5 years) and a Lycée (7 years) where French Language and Literature, Philosophy, Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, English, and German were taught selectively in the last four years.
The school became co-educational in 1965, and female students now constitute at least 40% of the school's pupils.
One of the main buildings of the Feriye Palace on the Bosphorus, in the Ortaköy district, was also given to Galatasaray when it needed more room for expansion.
Integrated Education System (1992–present)
In the 1990s, Galatasaray entered another period of transformation. The signing of the Turkish-French Bilateral Agreement of 1992 led to the foundation of Galatasaray University which essentially grew out of the Lycée. With the addition of a new primary education school, the three units have emerged as autonomous components of an integrated education system under the aegis of the University.
The admission to the Lycée is by selective exams. Turkish primary school graduates take a very competitive centralized exam if they wish to be enrolled in a limited number of elite public high schools. Galatasaray admits 100 students from the top 750 of about 600,000 candidates. Galatasaray primary education school graduates are admitted to the Lycée, subject to examination. Lycée graduates may continue their higher education in Galatasaray University, where 25 percent of the enrollment quota is reserved for them, also subject to examination.
Until 1997, Lycée de Galatasaray was an 8-year school, which, for graduates of the 5-year compulsory primary school, involved 2 years of preparatory, 3 years of junior high, and 3 years of senior high school education. Galatasaray has become a 5-year senior high school with the introduction of the 8-year compulsory primary education system in Turkey, starting in the 2003–2004 academic year, including 1-year prep.
Galatasaray, being a boarding school, has a richly diverse student body, with boys and girls coming from every corner of the country. The current curriculum consists of a blend of Turkish and French curricula, plus a number of additional language and elective courses. Courses on Turkish Literature, Geography, History, Ethics, and Art are taught in Turkish. French Literature, Philosophy, Sociology, Mathematics, and Science courses use French as the language of instruction. In addition, English is taught from the primary school's sixth grade on, while Italian and Latin are taught in the Lycée grades.
The students set up an English Club in 1997, which regularly participates in the Harvard Model United Nations Conferences.
The Lycée de Galatasaray diploma is equivalent to the French Baccalaureate, and graduates of Galatasaray are admitted to universities in France without further examinations. Moreover, they have no difficulty in enrolling in the best universities in Turkey and abroad. After obtaining their University degrees, many of these students join the Civil and Diplomatic Services, which befits the Enderun and later Imperial school traditions.
Graduates of this school during the last 80 years have included two Prime Ministers, eight Foreign Affairs Ministers and scores of cabinet Ministers and Undersecretaries. Apart from these the alumni of this institution have become academicians, judges, educators, writers, doctors, architects, engineers, journalists, artists, film directors, poets, painters and many other professionals.
Many Galatasaray alumni have joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. They constitute an important body in the Diplomatic Corps, and the number of those who have reached the Ambassadorial rank exceeds one hundred.
Today, Lycée de Galatasaray graduates continue to occupy high ranking political, industrial and business positions within and outside Turkey. They are represented by 17 Alumni Associations, 9 in Turkey, and 8 in Europe, North America and South Africa.